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Another one bites the dust: Cru is the latest recession casualty

The much-lauded restaurant Cru (we gave it three stars earlier this year) closed its doors on unlucky April 13. Owner Hieu Nguyen is left with his newer venture, Forte, and star chef Greg Argent, but it has been a rough—and expensive—time. Trouble started last September, when the normally lively Kingsway-area restaurant would get busy only on Friday and Saturday. A steady stream of neighbourhood regulars and occasional corporate spillover from the nearby Old Mill Inn weren’t enough to sustain business. By spring, Nguyen had lost too much money to stay afloat. “We had to bite the bullet,” he says.

But Nguyen’s no quitter; the focus is on Forte now, which has absorbed half of the staff from its martyred sibling. He may be feeling the burn—Cru cost $1 million and Forte even more—but Nguyen still plans to open an additional restaurant once the economy is in better shape. He is dreaming of a neighbourly spot off the beaten path, although he does not yet know where it will be. The plan is to serve high-quality, simple and affordable food. A newly destitute adventurer (“I’m poor,” he tells us), he’s still game for a laugh: “That’s the restaurant business, and I love it. What can you do?”

We tip our hats to his stayin’ alive optimism.

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